Nobody needs to remind Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell how fortunate he has been the last few months.
Bickell parlayed a huge playoff performance in which he scored 9 goals and 17 points into a four-year, $16 million contract as an unrestricted free agent and now is considered one of the Stanley Cup champs’ core players.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Bickell admitted. “From the season we had to winning the Cup to getting the extension to getting married. It’s going to be a year to remember. It’s been unbelievable. It still hasn’t sunk in and we’re almost halfway through the summer.”
With a big contract comes bigger expectations, and Bickell is ready to deal with them. He is going to be expected to play every night like he did in the playoffs and be a top power forward with a physical edge and deft scoring touch.
Bickell likely will start the season where he finished it, playing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
“There is definitely going to be pressure,” Bickell said. “Throughout my career there have been some ups and downs in my consistency level, but last year was a big steppingstone for me to know what I need to bring every day to be at the top of my game.
“I feel coming into next year I need to play the same way. Confidence goes a long way. My confidence level right now is pretty high, and I need to bring that in to the next season and hopefully run with it. There are going to be ups and downs, but just knowing I can do it helps and hopefully I will.”
Bickell played the entire final series against Boston with a torn tendon in his right thumb that ultimately required surgery.
“I got slashed in one (postseason) series and there was swelling and a cyst,” Bickell said. “It was blocking blood flow and my thumb (tendon) was disintegrating, but I could play and I was happy. Then I was picking up my hockey bag and it just popped. (Trainer Mike) Gapski was right there and said, ‘Uh oh, this is not good.’ I couldn’t move my thumb. I’m just recovering from surgery now. They had to take a tendon out of my finger and put it in my thumb.”
Bickell loves to fish and admits having a cast on his thumb affected his fishing.
So has planning for his wedding, which will take place on Saturday.
“It has affected my fishing,” Bickell said of his injury. “This wedding has been affecting my fishing too, but it’s a good thing. There’s going to be a lot of fishing, but this wedding is more important.”
Bickell expects to be ready for the start of the regular season on Oct. 1 against Washington.
“Coming into the regular season, I’m going to be healthy,” he said. “The most important thing is to be ready and be in the best shape possible.”
Defending the Cup will be the next challenge facing the Hawks. No team has won back-to-back Stanley Cups since Detroit in 1997-98.
“We had some fortunate bounces go our way, but next year we just have to have the same mindset we did last year,” Bickell said. “If we do that we have as good a chance as anybody.”
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